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Mission HMS Audacious: An Underwater Adventure to the Sunken Dreadnought

Mission HMS Audacious: An Underwater Adventure to the Sunken Dreadnought HMS Audacious was the Royal Navy’s fourth and last King George V-class dreadnought battleship. She was laid down in 1911 and commissioned in 1913. Built by the legendary Cammell Laird, a British shipbuilding company that was formed from the merger of Laird Brothers and Johnson Cammell & Co, she could reach 21 knots.

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 75212) Battleship HMS Audacious. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205319999

At 597 feet in length and with a displacement of 25,420 tons she was a big girl. Additionally, she was equipped with 13.5-inch guns, she would have been a formidable addition at Jutland. But sadly, her fate was not to be.

On the morning of October 27th, 1914, Audacious’ squadron was sailing near Tory Island, Ireland taking part in a gunnery practice, she struck a German mine, laid only a few days earlier by the SS Berlin.

Audacious slowly sinking

She would capsize and sink by 11pm that night. 

Over a hundred years later diver and undersea explorer Darragh Norton braves the cold of the North Atlantic to visit the lost Dreadnought!

The only unsalvaged dreadnought battleship that lies within range of technical divers today. 

Starboard anchor of dreadnought battleship HMS Audacious, on what remains of her bow after magazine explosion

The wreck lies at a depth of 68 meters (190–223 ft) in some of the clearest waters in the Atlantic, some 17 miles (27 km) north-east of Tory Island. 

The wreck is visited by technical divers using closed circuit rebreathers to recycle the exotic gasses they breathe at this depth. 

Port props on superdreadnought battleship HMS Audacious

After a typical 40-minute dive on the wreck, the diver must spend approximately 80 minutes slowly ascending to the surface, to eliminate excess gasses that have dissolved in the diver’s blood during the dive, avoid a cases of decompression sickness.  

One of the turrets

The dive season typically runs between May and October, and very much weather dependent being exposed to the North Atlantic swell. 

B Turret

Water temperatures on the wreck are typically in the region of 10-12C, rising to 16C in the shallows during decompression, towards the end of the Summer.

torpedo tube
13.5″ guns of HMS Audacious
B Turret
13.5″ guns of HMS Audacious
After taking on considerable water from striking a mine, Audacious rolled over (typical for battleships which are top heavy due to their guns and armourment) and one or more of her magazines caught fire. Such was the force of the explosion that it bent this 4″ gun over a barbet.

Underwater Explorer Darragh Norton

Irish diver goes deep into WWI ship’s past | Ireland | The Times

Stunning underwater snaps show wreckage of huge ship sunk by six torpedoes off Irish coast 99 years ago (thesun.ie)

Mission HMS Audacious: An Underwater Adventure to the Sunken Dreadnought